Wi-Fi Goes Live At London Underground Stations

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined
as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Passengers at Warren Street and Kings Cross set to go online first

Kings Cross St Pancras and Warren Street have become the first two Wi-Fi enabled London Underground stations, with four others on the network set to be operational in the next two days.

Virgin Media says that Oxford Circus and Green Park will be activated from tomorrow, with Victoria and Euston the next to benefit on Saturday.

It is hoped that 80 stations will have Wi-Fi connectivity in time for this summer’s Olympic Games, with 120 by the end of the year.

No fare increases

“Our new Wi-Fi service is a fantastic deal for Londoners, with live travel updates, entertainment and news freely available to everyone while they are on the move across the capital,” said Gareth Powell, London Underground’s director of strategy and service development. “Wi-Fi at Tube stations will help us improve the journeys of the millions of people that use the Underground everyday at no cost to fare or tax payers.”

To access the service, passengers simply need to connect to the service and register their email address.  The services will only be available on station platforms, not on the trains themselves, and users will have access to a portal, which will display real-time travel information, playlists from Spotify and entertainment recommendations from Time Out as well as other content.

Virgin Media won the contract to supply Wi-Fi to the Underground earlier this year, and announced the first 80 stations last week. These include busy London interchanges such as Oxford Circus and major rail terminals, with capacity testing recently completed at Chancery Lane. In a separate deal, The Cloud will bring Wi-Fi to all 56 stations on the London Overground network in time for London 2012.

Historic moment

“This is a truly historic moment as we connect millions of Tube passengers to the wonderful world of the internet for the first time ever,” added Neil Berkett, CEO of Virgin Media. “Our plans for getting London Underground online were very ambitious from the start and, in less than just three months, we’ve launched a major new service, making London one of the world’s leading connected cities.”

It is hoped that the service will encourage growth in London’s hi-tech industries, attracting investment and helping existing start ups in the city. It will be free until after the Olympics have concluded, but customers of Virgin Media and other selected networks will continue to get it free afterwards. Others will be able to use the service on a pay-as-you-go basis.

“We need to ensure London is able to cement its position as Europe’s leading digital city,” commented Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. “Our partnership with Virgin Media to make Wi-Fi available on Tube platforms will be of tremendous benefit as building world class connectivity is critical to supporting new businesses and the jobs they create, especially in the high-tech and creative sectors.”

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